Okefenokee wasn’t on our trip route, but when he told me about it, I knew that I liked the word; Okefenokee. It sticks in your brain like glue, like a mosquito to your skin, like swamp mud on your boots. Doubtful that we’d ever be in that part of the U.S. anytime in the next 100 years, we headed away from the Carolina coast, right into lower south east Georgia’s swampland.
We went looking for gators, and came back with our first adventure feature presentation …
The Okefenokee Swap is no casual destination. You must really want to go there. To get to Stephen C. Foster Georgia State Park, you head 17 miles off a middle-of-nowhere road that dead ends into the park. Once you get there, you’ll feel like a tiny fly that’s landed in a scene from Land of the Lost. Huge leafy palms, big Cypress trees covered in Spanish moss, bugs bigger than your hand, and the darkest tea-colored gooey swamp water you’ve ever seen.
You also must really want to see the swamp, because this is no place to hike or bike. The only hiking trail is short and elevated about five feet off the ground. Or two miles upstream. To really see this place you must experience it up close and personal. But be careful.
It’s all about the flora, fauna and big fat gators. Lots of them. So many that you may have to move around them when you get near the water. One big ol’ Wally Gator was waiting to open his enormous jaws and say “G’Morning, Mate” to us when we checked out our canoe. Wally was just the first of many big crocodillians we would see throughout our journey.
What made our swamp adventure most exciting was the sheer surprise of our first close encounter at the waters edge. I wonder if the rangers had a hoot and gave us Canoe #21 because they had seen where Wally was doing his morning warm ups. I also wonder how the scene would have panned out if we were some clueless family letting our little tyke run ahead to the canoe. We were allowed to jump in a canoe without giving them our ID, provided no instruction, and given no warning about how close to some serious nature we would be getting. Good thing Jim earned his canoing merit badge. And his first aid. Now it looks like he’s working on his cinematography.